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Queen Mary Academy

Disrupting hierarchies: Students as partners in the training of SSLC co-chairs

Eleven hands with jigsaw pieces on a wooden table
Ana Cabral

Ana Cabral

Academic Practice and Student Engagement Manager

Student-Staff Liaison Committees (SSLCs) provide a forum within which academic staff and students can raise and discuss issues relating to teaching, course design and content, administration, facilities and resources.

Responding to a need

SSLC training is provided to student co-chairs by Queen Mary Students' Union (QMSU). However, historically, there was no equivalent training for academic co-chairs. Students involved in SSLCs had raised concerns that it didn't do any good to talk, because academic co-chairs didn't listen to them.

The 2020 Education Quality and Standards Board Paper on Student-Staff Liaison Committees highlighted a clear need for greater collaboration between staff and student co-chairs so that students' voices were heard. The paper recommended that SSLC training be made available to staff in order to facilitate this:

"A discussion amongst the authors of this paper has raised some further matters for consideration by EQSB. These are as follows:
    a.    How training could be made available for academic members of staff who co-chair SSLC meetings (training is available for student co-chairs) (…)"

In response to these recommendations, Queen Mary’s 'Co-chairing and Co-creating in SSLCs' training module was created. The course is aimed at academics acting as co-chairs in SSLCs and focuses on promoting strong partnerships and opportunities for co-creation.

Integrating student voices in the design of this training was not enough; we wanted to disrupt hierarchies. Students' views regarding their role as co-chairs were essential to understanding how we could support academics to become better chairs and understand the role of student co-chairs.

Working together in partnership with staff is about respect and understanding. We create, share and build upon our ideas to deliver high quality outcomes for our students. This co-creation is at the heart of our most successful projects, where we come together as equal partners with shared values and aspirations.
— Cameron Storey, Vice President Humanities & Social Sciences, Queen Mary Students' Union

The course

The course was co-created by a team with partners from the Queen Mary Academy, students from QMSU, colleagues from Professional Services and the Office of the Principal (Education), and academics from the three faculties.

The students were invited onto this initiative as pedagogic consultants: they collaborated in the design and will be involved in the facilitation, monitoring and evaluation of the training course. Meetings began in October 2020 and a pilot ran in March 2021, with training launched at the Queen Mary Academy Festival of Learning. The first cohort will take the course in September 2021.

The course will be delivered asynchronously (every September and January) using a dedicated course area on QMPlus. Participants will be invited to reflect on their current chairing approach and consider strategies which could ultimately lead to more student engagement and effect change from SSLCs.

The course includes the following topics:

  • Module 1: Engagement through partnerships and co-creation
  • Module 2: Co-chairing and making students' voice count
    • 2.1: Receiving contributions
    • 2.2: Communicating Your Position
  • Module 3: Are you partnership ready? Preparing your work with your co-chair

The course includes videos, quizzes, scenarios and collaborative activities (discussion forum posts and Padlet). By the end of this course, participants will be able to do the following:

  1. Describe the principles of promoting student engagement through staff-student partnerships
  2. Apply those principles when co-chairing SSLC meetings: receiving contributions (listening) and communicating positions
  3. Recognise and apply good practice based on the discussion of scenarios
  4. Devise effective partnership approaches as a co-chair
  5. Co-create completed actions that foster student engagement and effect change.

The impact

One year after attending this course, participants were invited to complete a follow-up survey about their experience as Staff-Student Liaison Committee Chairs and consider the potential impact of the course.

Those who responded said they have very frequently applied the aims of the course to their practice. Of note, they reported that there were improvements in terms of prioritisation of student items, creation of opportunities for contribution, communication and feedback and active participation in the review of objectives and evaluation of the level of completion of action points. 

Ana Cabral

Academic Practice and Student Engagement Manager, Queen Mary Academy

Email Ana Cabral
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